Ayodhya: The Case Against the Temple
Elst has written several books on the Ayodhya debate and on the Ram Janmabhoomi controversy. Koenraad Elst reiterates his view that the Babri Mosque was built on an ancient Hindu temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi. The thrust of his argument is that "Future historians will include the no-temple argument of the 1990s as a remarkable case study in their surveys of academic fraud and politicized scholarship."
Elst also writes in detail about claims that certain Hindu rulers, including Pusyamitra Sunga, were iconoclasts; evidence to that effect had been previously presented by Romila Thapar, Richard Eaton and others.
Elst: " Ayodhya: the Case against the Temple (Voice of India 2002). A very good collection of papers on the Ayodhya contention and on various topics that have come up in the Ayodhya debate: Ashoka vs. Pushyamitra, Harsha of Kashmir, the secularist whitewash of Aurangzeb, or the Bodh Gaya temple controversy. It also contains rebuttals of Romila Thapar, Sanjay Subramaniam, Richard Eaton, Yoginder Sikand, Amber Habib and of the first scholarly criticism of Sita Ram Goel, viz. by Mitsuhiro Kondō, a Japanese woman toeing the Indian “secularist” line. "
Elst: Ayodhya, the Case against the Temple, analyses the debating tactics in the Ayodhya controversy, gives an overview of the evidence, discusses parallel cases like Bodh Gaya, and dicusses the work of Mitsuhiro Kondo, Sanjay Subramaniam, BN Pande and others. It draws attention to an anomaly in the Ayodhya debate, viz. that the mosque party always demands pro-temple evidence but is never asked to present its own evidence.
1. The Ayodhya debate: focus on the “no temple” evidence
2. Ashoka and Pushyamitra, iconoclasts?
3. The Bodh Gaya temple controversy
4. Harsha of Kashmir, a Hindu iconoclast?
5. Vandalism sanctified by scripture
6. The details about “Hindu iconoclasm”
7. Why did Aurangzeb demolish the Kashi Vishvanath temple?
8. From Ayodhya to Nazareth
9. Ayodhya and the Supreme Court
10. Mohammed Habib’s history-rewriting
11. The Ayodhya evidence debate
12. About the Hindu critique of monotheism
13. Postscript: a lasting solution
- Thapar and Sharma are quoted as representatives of Indian Marxism in Tom Bottomore’s History of Marxist Thought, Oxford 1988, entry “Hinduism”; Habib has subtitled his recent book Essays in Indian History (Tulika, Delhi 1995) as Towards a Marxist Perception.
- So this is the evidence given, the whole reason for abandoning a well-researched view of history: “One could argue...” It is in the nature of historical evidence (as opposed to evidence in physics) that it can always be “argued”, that is, explained away if inconvenient. Fossiles disprove the Biblical Creation Theory? No, for one could argue (and some Evangelical fundamentalists do argue) that God created the world with fossiles and all, if only to put the faith of palaeontologists to the test- Of even the hardest evidence one could argue that it may have been planted, doctored, misplaced, and that it should therefore be rejected by historians.
- At any rate, the BMAC’s frontal display of contempt for logic and rational method has not pitted any secularist against the BMAC position. For them no allegations of replacing historical knowledge with myth or “faith”; which adds further illustration to our view that the whole rhetoric of historicity vs. faith was never anything else than a dispersionary tactic to put the Hindus on the defensive.
- Under India’s secularist regime, Hindu society is an underground society, and sometimes it is inevitable that moral imperatives in the service of Hindu society can only be realised by such surreptitious surprise action.
- Considering the foolish haughtiness with which the Allahabad High Court had just decided, days before the gathering scheduled for 6 December, to postpone once more their verdict on the acquisition of some of the Ayodhya land by the UP government (intended as part of a strategy towards a peaceful solution), after a full 42 years of endless litigation, it is not fair to accuse the over-enthusiastic Rama devotees of disrespect towards the judicial process and the democratic order which it is supposed to uphold. Rather, they have shown disrespect towards the misuse of the courts for political games, and they have rightly revolted against the judges’ contempt for Hindu society, which was evident from their unwillingness to settle the dispute brought before them, concerning no less a site than the Rama-Janmabhoomi.
- One imagines the scornful secularist reaction if the Vishva Hindu Parishad had based its Ayodhya claims on a dream; yet, the numerous Christians in India’s secularist coalition have not made any plans to relinquish the Church’s dream-based claims on the pilgrimage sites in Palestine.
- In normal academic practice, the debate on an issue on which such a consensus exists, would only have been opened after the discovery of new facts which undermine the consensus view. The present debate is between a tradition which numerous observers and scholars had found coherent and well-founded, and an artificial hypothesis based on political compulsions instead of on newly discovered facts.
- testimony to the same effect is also given by the Portuguese historian Gaspar Correa, who describes how Hindus continued their annual procession to the site of the Kapalishwara temple on Mylapore beach (Madras), even after the temple had been forcibly replaced with a Catholic church, vide Ishwar Sharan: The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple, Voice of India, p.18-19 (1st ed., 1991) or p-93-94 (2nd ed., 1995).
- Of course, this collection of contemporary, often politically motivated articles and statements does not have any proof value. At best, some of the names under the articles could constitute an “argument of authority”, but even that is diluted by their juxtaposition with political agitators and plain cranks. More than an argumentation, this presentation of many conflicting opinions is a dispersionary tactic to keep the opposing party busy with refuting the weirdest viewpoints.
- It is quite bizarre that scholars trying to prove a point discredit their own case by using a proven forgery without any comment.
- Instead, just like B. B. Lal’s report, this inscription became a skeleton in their closet, which they have to keep from public view as long as possible.
- Prof. B.B. Lal has formulated this conclusion on different occasions, including articles in Purâtitattva no. 16, 1987, and in Manthan, October 1990. In a letter to the Times of India, published on 1-3-1991, he concludes that “what is known as Ayodhya today was indeed the Ayodhya of the Valmiki Ramayana”.
- The political equation behind all this intrigue is rarely understood by non-Indians. Thus, it requires quite a historical excursus to explain why declared Marxists like Irfan Habib, R.S. Sharma and Romila Thapar are making common cause with Islamic fundamentalism in its struggle against Hindu pluralism.
- Among those who uphold the temple thesis, you find scholars who did not support the movement for replacing the mosque structure with temple architecture, and who explicitly distanced themselves from the Vishva Hindu Parishad’s campaign, e.g. Prof. A.R. Khan and archaeologist Dr. R. Nath. By contrast, I am not aware of anyone in the anti-temple party who supported the right of Hindus to build a temple at the site: every one of them explicitly subscribes to the position that Hindu attempts to reclaim this Hindu sacred site should be thwarted.
- Against the near-universal consensus that all sacred sites are to be respected, Islam is taking the position that it has the right to occupy and desecrate the sacred sites of other religions. Genuine secularists must oppose and thwart this obscurantist design, and allow the normal process of Hindu architectural renovation to take its course.
- “In the Islamic world many places of worship belonging to the earlier religion have been converted to mosques.” M. Shokoohy: “Two fire temples converted to mosques in central Iran”, Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce, EJ. Brill, Leiden 1985, p.546.
- The matter should have been put to rest there, but some Marxist polemicists just cannot let go of what they had hoped would be a trump card in their struggle to death against Hinduism.
- All it demonstrates is the bullying rhetoric so common in the debate between the scientific and the secularist schools of Indian history.
- At any rate, it is precisely the primary sources which leave no stone standing of the edifice of Nehruvian history-rewriting.
- It may be remarked here in passing that Prof. Thapar also demonstrates her very weak grip on religious issues with her little excursus on the occasional Muslim interpretation (rendered more plausible by the imprecision of the Arabic script in transcribing Indian words) of Somanâtha as “Somanât”, and hence of the temple as a place where the Arabian Goddess Manât was worshipped. In spite of her own position, she actually hits the nail on the head in her rendering of what she describes as Turco-Persian myth-making: “The link with Manat added to the acclaim for Mahmud. Not only was he the prize iconoclast in breaking Hindu idols, but in destroying Manat he had carried out what were said to be the very orders of the Prophet.”
- In spite of Sikand’s attempt to whitewash Aurangzeb, evidence remains plentiful that this Moghul emperor committed acts of persecution and iconoclasm which would generally be considered vicious (they certainly would if committed by Hindutva activists, witness the torrent of abuse after the demolition of the Babri Masjid).
- A remarkable aspect of the Ayodhya debate is the complete lack of active involvement by Western scholars. Their role has been limited to that of loudspeakers for the secularist-cum-Islamist party-line denying that any temple demolition had preceded the construction of the Babri Masjid.
- Given the widely acknowledged importance of the Ayodhya conflict, one would have expected at least some of the well-funded Western academics to embark on their own investigation of the issue rather than parroting the slogans emanating from Delhi’s Jama Masjid and JNU. Their behaviour in the Ayodhya debate provides an interesting case study in the tendency of establishment institutions and settled academics to genuflect before ideological authorities overruling proper scholarly procedure in favour of the political fashion of the day.
- For Prof. Eaton’s information, it may be recalled that an extreme and willful superficiality regarding all matters religious is a key premise of Nehruvian secularism. While such an anti-scholarly attitude may be understandable in the case of political activists parachuted into academic positions in Delhi, there is no decent reason why an American scholar working in the relative quiet of Tucson, Arizona, should play their game.
- According to the cover text on his book, Eaton is professor of History at the University of Arizona and “a leading historian of Islam”. Had he defended the thesis that iconoclasm is rooted in Islam itself, he would have done justice to the evidence from Islamic sources, yet he would have found it very hard to get published by Oxford University Press or reach the status of leading Islam scholar that he now enjoys. One can easily become an acclaimed scholar of Hinduism by lambasting and vilifying that religion, but Islam is somehow more demanding of respect.
- So, this is where the story comes from: an unnamed friend of an unnamed acquaintance of Sitaramayya knew of a manuscript, but he took the details of it with him in his grave. This hearsay in the third degree is the “document” on which secularist journalists and historians base their “evidence” of Aurangzeb’s fair and secularist disposition. This is how they go about “exploding the myth” of Islamic iconoclasm. Their “debunking” of genuine history as preserved and presented by Hindu historians stands exposed as sheer bluff.
- So now, we finally know where the story comes from: an unnamed mullah friend of an unnamed acquaintance of Sitaram ayya's knew of a manuscript, the details of which he took with him in his grave. This is the "document" on which secularist journalists and historians base their "evidence" of Aurangzeb's fair and secularist disposition, overruling the evidence of archaeology and the cold print of the Maasiri Alamgiri, to "explode the myth" of Islamic iconoclasm spread by the "chauvinist" Hindutva propagandists. Now you just try to imagine what the secularists and their mouthpieces in Western academe would say if Hindus offered evidence of this quality.
- What are the facts? The official court chronicle, Maasir-i-Alamgiri, fills many pages with items like this “His majesty proceeded to Chitor on the 1st of Safar. Temples to the number of sixty-three were here demolished. Abu Tarab, who had been commissioned to effect the destruction of the idol temples in Amber, reported in person on the 24th Rajab, that threescore and six of these edifices had been levelled with the ground.”2 It says in so many words that Aurangzeb “ordered all provincial governors to destroy all schools and temples of the Pagans and to make a complete end to all Pagan teachings and practices”. Moreover, it records: “Hasan Ali Khan came and said that 172 temples in the area had been destroyed”, etc. Aurangzeb’s supposed intolerance can be deduced from his actual policies, known to us through his own chronicles as well as other sources. ...About Benares/Varanasi, we learn from the Maasir-i-Alamgiri: “News came to court that in accordance with the Emperor’s command his officers had demolished the temple of Vishvanath at Banaras”.
- The violent tendencies of Islam are not a propaganda bandied about by some querrulants, but a daily fact of life for Hindus in Jammu or Dhaka. It is simply impossible to understand Hindu Revivalism for people who are adamant about disregarding or denying these facts.
- Why not admit straightaway that the violence suffered by Hindus from Pakistan-sponsored terrorists is a plain fact and therefore also a legitimate Hindu concern?
- To say Mahmud patronised Alberuni is a bit of a stretch - for Alberuni was a captive from one of Mahmud’s western campaigns and, while he travelled in Mahmud’s train, he enjoyed no special privileges. (his bitterness towards Mahmud is quite explicit in his Kitab-al-Hind.)
- The Christian-dominated Korean leadership has even been accused by neutral observers of military persecution of Buddhism, esp. the crackdown in October 1980, see Encyclopedia Brittannica, Book of the Year 1988, entry Buddhism.